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FTSE settles near three-week high ahead of Yellen speech

FTSE settles near three-week high ahead of Yellen speech

The FTSE 100 steadied near a three-week high as investors awaited a speech by Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen at the central bankers shindig in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The UK blue-chip index shed three points to 6,775 with few stocks making major movements. Investors want to see if Yellen offers any clues as to the timing of a US interest rate rise, after minutes from the Fed's open market committee showed debate about whether an earlier-than-expected hike was needed. Positive US economic data released yesterday, showing home sales jumping to a 10-month high and initial jobless claims dropping, has bolstered the argument of those calling for an earlier rise.

'As we head into the end of another positive week for stock markets it is hard to shake a slight feeling of unease as we look ahead to a fairly low key day with no economic data to speak of,' said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

'Another factor keeping investors a little uncertain is Fed chief Janet Yellen's speech later today at Jackson Hole, with the key question being whether she will reinforce the tone of this week's minutes, or whether she attempts to play them down with the traditionally dovish tone she has adopted in recent comments, with most expecting the latter.'

Petrofac (PFC) was the biggest mover on the FTSE 100, falling 2% to £11.04 after Norman Murray resigned as chairman of the oil and gas services group  for 'compassionate reasons', according to the company.

There was more movement on the FTSE Small Cap index, where the battle for control of UK engineering group Hyder Consulting (HYC) took another twist. Dutch group Arcadis (ARDS.AS) has made a new 730p-per-share offer for the group. That trumps Japanese group Nippon Koei UK Topco's (1954.T)'s 680p-per-share offer, which the Japanese group had made in an attempt to gazump Arcadis' previous 650p-per-share approach. Nippon Koei UK Topco said it was considering its position.

Hyder was up 4% at 735.5p on the news.

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